Fraternities exist on college campuses around the country. While the word “fraternity” may bring to mind images of wild parties or drinking binges, there are several different types of fraternities, each with its own unique set of goals and practices. If you're considering joining a fraternity and aren't sure where to start, it helps to understand the basics about the common fraternity types and the details that separate them from one another.

Social Fraternities

Social fraternities are organizations dedicated to helping members network and better engage other people in a social environment. Many have no specific rules regarding the academics or career path of their members, instead focusing on casual events on-campus. A social fraternity is the closest thing to the fraternities you see in movies, with most of their activities rooted in social pursuits rather than community service or academics.

Professional Fraternities

Professional fraternities are based on the career prospects and goals of their members. Pi Sigma Epsilon, for example, is a fraternity whose membership includes people who want to work in management, sales or marketing. A professional fraternity provides support for members in finding jobs within their specific profession and offers networking opportunities in a given field. In order to join such a fraternity, you need to be on an academic course reflecting your professional ambitions.

Academic Fraternities

An academic fraternity is a group of people devoted to academic success. Good grades and a strong record of academic achievement are necessary to pledge an academic fraternity. These fraternities include the best and brightest students on your college campus. Similar to professional fraternities, academic fraternities often focus on the future job prospects of their members. Kappa Delta Pi is an honor society devoted to students who plan to enter the education field after graduation. An honors or academic fraternity is a good choice for strong students with a desire to work hard.

Service Fraternities

As with social fraternities, service fraternities may choose members based on personal qualities and interests, without concern about future career paths or current grades. Service fraternities focus primarily on improving the community. A service fraternity may volunteer at homeless shelters, participate in neighborhood clean-ups or safety programs or run a youth mentoring program. This community-oriented approach makes a service fraternity a valuable part of the university and the local community.